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18. CHAPTER XVIII (continued)
"I love you; I shall never love anybody else. Marry me or leave me; think what you like of me--I don't care a straw." At the moment, however, speech or silence seemed immaterial, and she merely clapped her hands together, and looked at the distant woods with the rust-like bloom on their brown, and the green and blue landscape through the steam of her own breath. It seemed a mere toss-up whether she said, "I love you," or whether she said, "I love the beech-trees," or only "I love--I love."
"Do you know, Mary," Ralph suddenly interrupted her, "I've made up my mind."
Her indifference must have been superficial, for it disappeared at once. Indeed, she lost sight of the trees, and saw her own hand upon the topmost bar of the gate with extreme distinctness, while he went on:
"I've made up my mind to chuck my work and live down here. I want you to tell me about that cottage you spoke of. However, I suppose there'll be no difficulty about getting a cottage, will there?" He spoke with an assumption of carelessness as if expecting her to dissuade him.
She still waited, as if for him to continue; she was convinced that in some roundabout way he approached the subject of their marriage.
"I can't stand the office any longer," he proceeded. "I don't know what my family will say; but I'm sure I'm right. Don't you think so?"
"Live down here by yourself?" she asked.
"Some old woman would do for me, I suppose," he replied. "I'm sick of the whole thing," he went on, and opened the gate with a jerk. They began to cross the next field walking side by side.
"I tell you, Mary, it's utter destruction, working away, day after day, at stuff that doesn't matter a damn to any one. I've stood eight years of it, and I'm not going to stand it any longer. I suppose this all seems to you mad, though?"
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